The third edition of the College Football Playoff rankings came out on Tuesday night and nothing changed with the top teams. The top seven programs all stayed put, so we don’t really have a lot of drama in terms of a big decision for the CFP committee as of now.
We could, though. There is a realistic possibility that everybody except Georgia ends up with two losses. We’ve never had a two-loss team in the final four, but this could be the year that it happens. If Cincinnati were to lose to SMU, East Carolina or Houston, one loss would knock the Bearcats out of the equation and it should, in theory, weaken Notre Dame’s standing in the eyes of the committee.
Ohio State is a big favorite over Michigan State this week and a short road favorite in Ann Arbor in two weeks. Georgia could lose the SEC Championship Game to Alabama and still get in. If the Buckeyes run the table, giving Michigan and Michigan State a second loss, and Oregon also runs the table, who gets the No. 4 spot if Georgia beats Alabama?
At this point, I’m convinced that a two-loss Alabama gets in, barring a blowout loss to Georgia. You can read why in the Alabama blurb.
(odds from DraftKings)
No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (10-0, -120)
We now know that Georgia is a 3-point favorite over Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Given that Georgia makes the College Football Playoff with a loss in that game, maybe -120 isn’t a bad bet right now. The Bulldogs are favored by just shy of a touchdown against Ohio State by most projections and probably more than a two touchdown favorite over Oregon.
Even an unbeaten Cincinnati wouldn’t make it over Georgia, assuming Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon are the other three. That much is clear at this point. The only burning question here is what an Alabama vs. Georgia line is in the CFP National Championship if the Crimson Tide win on Dec. 4. Can you do better than -120 if they meet again? It’s possible, but it’s also fairly likely that Georgia wins and the Bulldogs are a big favorite in the semifinal and the final.
We’ve reached the point where -120 is a serious consideration given how the other dominoes are falling.
Remaining schedule: Charleston Southern, @ Georgia Tech, SEC Championship Game Dec. 4
No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1, + 360)
Alabama is still the second favorite on the board, but the path to win the title is a tough one. The Iron Bowl did get less interesting with the injury to Bo Nix. Alabama can still backdoor into the final four with a loss to Georgia, especially a close one.
Mississippi State being the only ranked team with four losses tells me that the committee will try to justify two-loss Alabama over Cincinnati if push comes to shove. Arkansas is also up four spots for a 3-point win in overtime against LSU. Ole Miss effectively took Texas A&M’s spot. This is setting up for the Tide to get an extra life, even with a loss to Georgia.
That being said, the Tide would be a slight favorite over Ohio State and a two-touchdown-ish favorite against Oregon, along with a big favorite over Cincinnati and anybody else. I still don’t think there’s a lot of value here and Alabama, unlike Georgia, doesn’t have the same margin for error. The + 360 price is a tough one to gauge with all the moving parts.
Remaining schedule: Arkansas, @ Auburn
No. 3 Oregon Ducks (9-1, 25/1)
Oregon is the fourth choice at 25/1, but a far cry from Ohio State at 4/1 and the top two teams in the CFP rankings. The Ducks are a dog to Utah this week, meaning they’d be roughly a pick ‘em in Las Vegas if the two met again on Dec. 3. As we’ve established, Oregon is a big dog to Georgia, Alabama and even Ohio State in a semifinal game.
As juicy as this price looks given that the Ducks control their own destiny, you’d be in better shape with a moneyline rollover that likely pushes up into the 5/1 range by the conference championship game and probably over the 25/1 range with just the first semifinal game, let alone the title game.
A moneyline rollover would mean starting with a bet amount and then going “all-in” week by week, so like $100 to win $135 this week would be betting $235 the next week against Oregon State.
In other words, 25/1 is not close to the right price.
Remaining schedule: @ Utah, Oregon State, Pac-12 Championship Game Dec. 3
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1, + 400)
The Buckeyes control their own destiny. Win out and they’re likely the No. 3 seed if Alabama beats Georgia and the No. 2 seed if Alabama does not. Despite the head-to-head result with Oregon, the Buckeyes have a chance at two top-10 wins and another top-15 win, assuming Wisconsin represents the West Division.
Ohio State is a big favorite this week, a favorite in the -4 range at Michigan and roughly -10 or -11 in Indianapolis against Wisconsin. They’d be a bigger favorite over anybody else.
Still, the 4/1 price isn’t that great. The Buckeyes could very well slip up and they’ll draw a tough 2/3 game in the semifinal and then likely Georgia or Alabama in the final, where they’d be an underdog. You’re better off not tying up your money right now. Wait and see what Ohio State’s line is prior to the Playoff, if the Buckeyes get there.
Remaining schedule: Michigan State, @ Michigan
No. 5 Cincinnati Bearcats (10-0, 50/1)
Cincinnati isn’t in that bad of a spot right now. Oklahoma and Wake Forest are out of the picture. There would be hell to pay in the court of public opinion and with all Group of Five conferences if Notre Dame jumped Cincinnati given the head-to-head win for the Bearcats.
The worst-case scenario for Cincinnati, outside of losing a game, is for Michigan to beat Ohio State because that kind of win will leave the Bearcats in the dust. The committee did throw Cincinnati a bone by ranking Houston this week, so the Bearcats, presumably, have a shot at another top-25 win to go with the Notre Dame victory. They’re still at the mercy of everybody else, but also have to win out.
Cincinnati could shock one playoff team, but it would be a huge ask to shock two. The 50/1 is just a fancy number, but not one worth playing.
Remaining schedule: SMU, @ East Carolina
No. 6 Michigan Wolverines (9-1, 35/1)
Hopefully you jumped on the Michigan train at 60/1 last week if you were going to be invested in the Wolverines. With Penn State out of the way, it comes down to the game against the Buckeyes. Michigan would also be favored in the Big Ten Championship Game, albeit not by as much as Ohio State.
This is the one team with a really decent chance to upset the CFP picture. The value has been sucked out of the number at this point, though. Hopefully you’re holding that 60/1 I talked about last week.
Remaining schedule: @ Maryland, Ohio State
No. 7 Michigan State Spartans (9-1, 80/1)
It basically comes down to this weekend for Michigan State. A loss against the heavily-favored Buckeyes and the dream is dead. Given the big number of 19 and the underlying concerns about the Sparty defense, there is no way I’d invest anything in them right now. Like Oregon, a moneyline rollover would be the better play, if anything.
Remaining schedule: @ Ohio State, Penn State
No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-1, 80/1)
Wins over Georgia Tech and Stanford shouldn’t move the needle and Notre Dame doesn’t have a conference championship game to earn points at the end of the season. Frankly, this team has no business being in the top 10 with the schedule and only one quality win, but dollar signs talk.
There is no equity in making this bet, as too many things have to happen for Notre Dame to get there.
Remaining schedule: Georgia Tech, @ Stanford
No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-1, 80/1)
Oklahoma State can go 12-1 with a Big 12 Championship and still wouldn’t make the final four, which is kind of crazy. The Cowboys don’t have a big non-conference win and the committee’s dislike of Oklahoma would cheapen the win in Stillwater on Nov. 27. Interestingly, Oklahoma State may end up beating Oklahoma twice, if that ends up the Big 12 Championship Game pairing.
I’d like to think Oklahoma State has a much better shot of getting in than Notre Dame and that the two shouldn’t be priced the same. One “OSU” would be enough for the committee, though, as the Cowboys just aren’t a big enough draw to merit a spot. We’ve been lucky that the rankings have mostly sorted themselves out since this whole thing started, but the committee would act in the interest of the almighty dollar if given that opportunity.
Remaining schedule: @ Texas Tech, Oklahoma
No. 10 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-1, 100/1)
If Clemson was the Clemson of old, we’d have to have an interesting talk about Wake Forest. Of course, if Clemson was the Clemson of old, the top four would look a lot different. It would still be a good win for the Demon Deacons if they can take down the Tigers this weekend. Pitt, ranked 18th, would be a good win as well in the ACC Championship Game. Just not enough of a win to move up the ladder far enough.
As odd as this is, the game against North Carolina was a non-conference game, so Wake Forest has already clinched a spot in Charlotte.
Remaining schedule: @ Clemson, @ Boston College, ACC Championship Game on Dec. 4
No. 11 Baylor
No. 12 Ole Miss
No. 13 Oklahoma
No. 14 BYU
No. 15 Wisconsin
No. 16 Texas A&M
No. 17 Iowa
No. 18 Pitt
No. 19 San Diego State
No. 20 NC State
No. 21 Arkansas
No. 22 UTSA
No. 23 Utah
No. 24 Houston
No. 25 Mississippi State